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Job Descriptions: Define the Target to Minimize Liability

Job descriptions can be critical to helping employers avoid liability. Here are a few of my key points from this recent article published by Successful Business News:

  • Job descriptions define the target for a number of legal purposes – setting forth duties to determine exempt (or not) status under wage/hour laws, accommodation analyses under disability discrimination laws (as Currents blogger Hans Murphy wrote about here), and really any employment dispute that might involve whether the employee was adequately performing duties communicated to her/him (i.e. most of them).
  • Job descriptions should be clear that they are not exhaustive in listing duties; maintaining the employer’s discretion to tell the employee what needs to be done at any given time.
  • It is valuable to update job descriptions, and to involve the employee in doing so. This ensures that the description reasonably reflects reality, and by involving the employee you memorialize the employee’s knowledge of the duties. If there is a big disconnect between the employee’s and the employer’s understandings, of course there is also operational value in knowing that and aligning those understandings.

Employers who do not have job descriptions understandably find it a daunting task to create them and/or to entail large payments to consultants. This does not necessarily need to be the case. 


© 2020 BARNES & THORNBURG LLPNational Law Review, Volume VI, Number 318


About this Author

William A. Nolan Labor and Employment Law Attorney Barnes Thornburg Law Firm Columbus

William A. Nolan serves as the Managing Partner of Barnes & Thornburg LLP’s Columbus, Ohio, office, which he opened in 2009. He is a member of the firm’s Labor and Employment Law Department. Bill has extensive experience as a litigator, trial lawyer and counselor. His practice includes a broad range of issues that organizations face in our rapidly changing competitive, legal and workplace environments. In short, he works to help management structure organizations, practices and relationships to proactively minimize the business disruption of disputes, and to help clients prevail when...